During the official celebration of World Food Day in North America, food system researchers, policy experts and advocates discussed the importance of improving global food and agricultural systems to meet the world’s most pressing challenges. Hosted by WOSU-NPR, the event was organized by Ohio State University, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Ohio Food Policy Network, the United Nations Environment Program and the Food Fund.
Falling between the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in the United States and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) — which will feature pavilions dedicated to food and agricultural systems for the first time — World Food Day 2022 calls for action to increase resilience, promote inclusive economic growth, and address inequalities. .
Food Tank President Danielle Nirenberg says, “While there is a lot to celebrate on World Food Day, there is a lot that needs to be done. We need diets that are accessible, affordable, fair, diverse and inclusive, including youth and women and transgender people, and addresses the misogyny and racism that are ingrained in our diets.”
Globally, approximately 830 million people are food insecure, with approximately 130-140 million severely food insecure, said Jocelyn Brown-Hall, Director of the FAO Liaison Office for North America. In addition, 3 billion people lack healthy diets.
The world’s food and agricultural systems are also “contributors and victims” of the climate crisis. Hall continues: “We have a lot of challenges ahead, which is why every year we talk about World Food Day, because we haven’t broken the code. [to solving these problems] Until now.”
Despite these challenges, speakers highlighted a number of key solutions that can help improve resilience, reduce hunger, and improve the resilience of historically marginalized communities.
In the United States, Marion Nestle, professor emeritus at New York University, is calling for the implementation of free universal school meals. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration “made school lunches universal, which many advocates have been pushing for decades,” says Nestlé. “It was exciting when it happened, and now it has stopped.”
Free universal school meals have been shown to reduce both childhood hunger and the stigma attached to receiving free or reduced-price meals, but many states are choosing to return to pre-pandemic nutrition programs. Nestlé points to partisan politics as a major impediment to maintaining the universal free school meal programme. “The idea that food in schools has become a partisan issue is enough to make me cry.”
Overcoming partisan politics will also be key to allocating more funding to food and agricultural research, a key change that former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has advocated. As the climate crisis progresses and supply chain disruptions continue to reveal the fragility of global food systems, Glickman argues that researchers will need to find ways to supply people who eat efficiently.
“We need ample research budgets in the food and agriculture sector in order to ensure that we can feed a hungry world,” says Glickman. But he notes that partisanship “now invades everything” is currently limiting funding for this research. “What we do in terms of making our democracy better thrive will have a lot to do with the issues raised at today’s conference.”
Improvements to the world’s food and agricultural systems also require support for those who grow and harvest food, says Baldemar Velasquez, chair of the Farm Labor Regulatory Commission (FLOC). Noting the prevalence of child labor and labor exploitation in global food systems, he says, labor regulation is key so they can demand “a restructuring of the systemic inequalities that are inherent in the supply chain.”
He also called on the Allies to do their part and ensure that farm workers are able to lead these changes. Addressing the audience, Velazques says, “Many of you are involved in advocacy groups, but you need to partner with the groups that receive your support. Because they need to get up and get up and start demanding these things for themselves.”
Watch the full admin’s recording The North American World Food Day Summit is below and learn more about the changes that diet experts are calling for.
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